By Mark Urycki
Posted September 14th 2018
DEBE TERHAR PRESIDENT STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
The Ohio Department of Education released report cards for school districts as well as individual school buildings yesterday.
More than 600 Ohio school districts got their report cards Thursday and for the first time they will get an overall letter grade.
Districts once labeled Excellent or Effective or on Academic Watch will now receive an A through F grade. Some school board members and state legislators want to do away with letter grades for fear that it oversimplifies school performance, but any changes will have to wait until next year.
The report cards grade districts on six categories: Achievement is a summation of their students’ statewide test scores. Gap Closing measures the ability of schools to narrow the achievement gaps between various demographic groups in the student population including minorities, English learners, and what the ODE calls “our most vulnerable populations.” Those two grades each account for 20 percent of the overall grade. Other categories each account for 15 percent.
K-3 Literacy looks at how well districts keep the early grades on track to read at a third grade level. Progress is a measure of how much improvement students make from year to year. Graduation Rate is measured for both four- and five-year cohorts. And finally, Prepared for Success looks at the training and technical skills that students have acquired to prepare for college or the workplace.
The graduation rate statewide has risen every year since 2010. Most test scores have been declining and tanked in 2016 before rebounding last year. Much of the movement could be blamed on changes in new requirements and changes in the tests themselves. In 2017 every statewide test score improved from the previous year with the exception of the fifth grade math exam and the high school history exam.
Some observers say students may have been motivated by stricter graduation standards.
Achievement indexes could be tweaked this year by adding some new factors. In following guidelines from the updated federal Every Student Succeeds Act, Ohio will give points for reductions in chronic absenteeism. The Ohio Department of Education considers anyone who misses 10 percent of the school days (an average of two per month in the school year) as chronically absent. The reason for the absence is not considered. Districts can meet the goal if their chronic absenteeism percentage is at or below the 2018 threshold of 13.6 percent. Some schools saw rates as high as 45 percent.
The ODE reports absenteeism is a key indicator of future success or failure. A school can also meet the objective by yearly reductions in absenteeism rates.
A factor in the Gap Closing component is improvement by English learners. The measure is based on gains in student performance on the Ohio English Language Proficiency Assessment. Districts such as Akron have seen an increase in the number of English language learners in recent years due to immigration to the city by families from South Asian countries Bhutan, Nepal, and Burma.
To meet the goals of Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee, schools build an individualized reading improvement and monitoring plan for each struggling student. Third graders take a state English exam twice during the year. Because this component is aimed at improving reading skills, districts that have fewer than five percent of its kindergartners reading below grade level at the beginning of the year will not be graded.
Find out how your school or school district here.